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The $64,000 Question - 18 September 1956

Published 1956

An episode of the infamous rigged 1950s game show "The $64,000 Question". When the scandal broke that several very popular quiz shows were "fixed", the ratings of several non-rigged quiz shows (such as "You Bet Your Life" and others) declined as well. This episode is complete with commercials for Revlon Lipstick.

Run time 29 minutes 26 seconds
Audio/Visual sound, black and white


Reviewer: brandonfox1 - - August 22, 2013
Subject: Early game show controversy
The “64,000 Dollar Question” was a 1950s game show featuring a format somewhat similar to today’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” The show features a host, Hal March, and several assistants whose jobs are primarily to hand the questions to the host. Each episode features three contestants of varying backgrounds. Before the contestants answer questions, they choose one of several categories in which to answer questions. From this category the contestants answer increasingly difficult questions for increasing dollar amounts with the grand prize at $64,000. The show features three contestants every half hour program, and contestants return if they don’t lose or achieve the grand prize within their allotted time.

The show ran from June 7, 1955 to November 2, 1958, airing on CBS most frequently on Tuesday from 10:00-10:30 PM. It was produced in Black and White in New York by executive producer Steve Carlin, along with Mert Koplin and Joseph Cates. The show was immensely popular while it aired. It was sponsored by the makeup company Revlon which exclusively ran ads throughout the show. This show was one of the shows implicated in the scandals that surrounded the game shows of the time. Congressional investigations discovered that the show manipulated results in order to increase suspense and ratings, sometimes telling contestants the answers to questions beforehand. Due to the controversy the genre of quiz shows fell out of favor with the public and $64,000 dollar question only aired for three years.

In this episode, three contestants successfully answered all the questions asked of them and were asked to return to the show. The first contestant was an Italian chemistry student who used a translator to interpret her answers. The second contestant was a man by the name of Wilton J. Springer. And the last contestant was the son of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Randolph Churchill. Hal March introduces the contestants and has a conversation with them before they begin answering questions. After the scandal the show and the format of the game show largely dropped off in influence on American culture.
Reviewer: bbkmoham - - August 21, 2013
Subject: Game Show Scandals and "The 64000 Question" (bm/110)
Here we have a September 18, 1956 Episode of “The $64000 Question” which was sponsored by Revlon Cosmetics and hosted by Hal March. The game show was produced by Mert Koplin and Joseph Cates and broadcasted on CBS. It aired from June 7 1955 to November 2, 1958 with each episode ranging from 22-24 minutes. This television game show was envisoined from its radio counterpart “Take it or Leave it” and soon all game shows began to have a general format for television. It appeared that these game shows all wanted to have a demonstration of knowledge, create a situation of risk and reward and have elements of luck. “The $64000 Question” seemed to meet all these requirements and fit the bill for the game show genre.

In this particular episode, Giovanna Ferrara who is the returning champion is a student of chemistry who does not speak English well and uses a translator for submitting her answers. The show was known for creating suspense by placing contestants in booths and asking them questions of specific topics. The next champion that returned was Wilton J. Springer. The show is continuously interrupted through Revlon commercials and the sponsor is closely linked to the show. The third contestant brought forth was Randolph Churchill. Coincidentally all three contestants answered their questions correctly and were given the opportunity to return to the next show.

The scandal that erupted from this game show was the fact that it became known that the contestants were already given the answers and that suspense was only created for entertainment. To keep the show appealing, the sponsors often bumped contestants off the show and added interesting contestants at their whim. Since contestants were given the answers ahead of time, champions could return week to week and build an audience more and more even though no real game was taking place. This scandal became such a big deal when Revlon, the sponsor, was so closely tied to its game show that they were worried that the brand would also be tied to the scandal and cause sales to drop. This scandal became an important step because it separated producers and sponsors from each other since sponsors were now too worried to be tied too closely to shows that were not enjoyed or looked down upon by audiences. More importantly, however, home audiences felt cheated because they felt that they had received false entertainment with no liveliness whatsoever.

(bm/ 110)
Reviewer: WarioBarker - - August 2, 2013
Subject: Bit of Trivia...
Although the name of the "Italian equivalent" that Giovanna Ferrara (the first contestant) won 5,000,000 Lire on is never mentioned, the fact she says Mike Bongiorno was the host leads me to believe it was "Lascia o Raddoppia".

Good quality in this upload. Too bad the show was rarely if ever on the up-and-up.